view of mountains from peak in Bristol NH just after sunset

Five Great Hikes in and Around Bristol

August 24, 2021 6:20 am

One of the great things about Bristol and the New Hampshire Lakes Region is that the outdoors is so accessible, no matter what your comfort level for adventure. In and around the Town of Bristol, you’ll find easy walking trails through the woods, moderate hikes with great views of the lakes, and popular mountains that are rewarding for both mild weather and winter hiking.

If easy access to nature is your goal, you’ll certainly find it in the New Hampshire Lakes Region and Bristol is a great jumping off point for your next outdoor adventure.

1. Wellington State Park

Known for its fresh waters and large beach, Wellington State Park is also a great place to spend the day hiking. The peninsula nature trail is relatively flat, with interesting features to keep hikers engaged along the way including plant identification markets, boulders, hemlock groves, and changing forest types along the way. Pack a lunch and stop at one of the trail’s picnic areas and enjoy spectacular views of Newfound Lake and Cliff and Belle Islands. 

If you want to explore further, a well-marked hiking trail leads from the park with access to Goose Pond, the Sugarloafs, Bear Mountain, Welton Falls, and Mt. Cardigan.

Learn more about Wellington State Park on West Shore Road in Bristol.

2. Sugar Hill State Forest and Slim Baker Foundation

From downtown Bristol there’s a ring of mountains and hills you can climb within the Sugar Hill State Forest that offer easy hikes with moderate vertical gains and drops. You can also climb Little Roundtop Mountain within land owned by the Slim Baker Foundation. This 135-acre tract of conserved land was set up in 1953 as a memorial to Everett “Slim” Baker, a beloved local  conservation officer with the NH Fish and Game Department. 

Part of the conservation area’s mission is to provide educational opportunities, as well as maintaining the beautiful land. Past programs have included an annual story walk, where pages from children’s books can be found through the trails, offering a great activity for families. 

Learn more about the Slim Baker Foundation and trails in Bristol.

3. Franklin Falls Dam

The Franklin Falls Dam property, located along the Pemigewasset River in nearby Franklin, is a 3,900-acre parcel managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It is open to the public for a wide range of activities, including hiking, disc golf, and mountain biking. Starting downstream of the dam, the 1.8-mile Piney Point Nature Trail loops around a peninsula through a mix of forest habitats. Interpretive signs along the way describe points of interest on this easy walk.

Learn more about the Franklin Falls Dam area and trail conditions.

Currently, the Town is building a connection to Franklin Falls via the Bristol downtown Pemi Trail, so residents will be able to access this great recreational property by bike or by foot too!

4. Mt Cardigan

Perhaps the most well-known mountain hike in the area, this bald peak offers spectacular 365-degree views that stretch into the White Mountains, West to Vermont and East to Maine on a clear day. A number of trails will take you to the summit, but the easiest option is via West Ridge Trail which begins in the Cardigan Mountain State Park in Orange. For a more challenging hike, try approaching from the east side, where you’ll find an Appalachian Mountain Club lodge at the base.

In the winter, Mt Cardigan is a popular spot for mountaineering, winter hikes and backcountry skiing, offering year-round recreation throughout the park. The New Hampshire State Park website has trail maps and other information about the landscape, vegetation and other points of interest in the park.

Learn more about Mt Cardigan at the Cardigan Mountain State Park.

5. Hersey Mountain

Located in our neighboring town of New Hampton, Hersey Mountain is a moderate climb with great views of the White Mountain Range and surrounding Lakes Region. It is part of the larger Hersey Mountain Community Forest, 3,256 acres of forestland managed by the Northeast Wilderness Trust and New England Forestry Foundation as a combination of working and preserved forest. Thorough surveys of the land have found significant ecological areas including 68 acres of old growth forest. 

For those who love land with diverse wildlife and great summit views, Hersey Mountain is a top spot. 

Learn more about Hersey Mountain and the community forest.

While these are some of our favorite local hikes, there are many more trails and mountains for you to explore around Bristol. The conditions of the trails and the investment in conservation is thanks in part to the many local conservation groups and outdoor clubs we have in the New Hampshire Lakes Region and White Mountains. Whether you enjoy hitting the trails in summer, fall or winter, there is always something interesting to see in the forests and watersheds in our area.